Academic journal article English Education

Navigating the Text Selection Gauntlet: Exploring Factors That Influence English Teachers' Choices

Academic journal article English Education

Navigating the Text Selection Gauntlet: Exploring Factors That Influence English Teachers' Choices

Article excerpt

Introduction

Teachers make many decisions on a daily basis, both in their planning and in their interactions with students: considering which objectives to focus on, which activities to use in helping their students learn, how to respond to their comments or challenges in class and out. These decisions matter to us as teacher educators, as both of us work at the university level teaching and supervising preservice teachers; we are also both former secondary English teachers. Thus, we are invested in the preparation of future teachers and the form that instruction takes in English classes. While we seek to prepare teacher candidates to be strong, professional teachers, we are also interested in the way decisions like these are currently made and how they might be improved.

In particular, a significant set of decisions made by teachers in English language arts classrooms involves the texts used for classroom instruction and out-of-class, independent reading. Decisions about texts can have far-reaching consequences for skill development and even for secondary students' attitudes toward reading. These decisions have taken on new consequence given the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (Common Core State Standards Initiative [CCSSI], 2010). These new standards direct teachers to use a variety of increasingly complex texts within and across grade levels. The CCSS assesses text complexity using quantitative and qualitative dimensions in addition to considerations of readers and tasks. An entire appendix of the CCSS is devoted to explaining these components of text complexity, providing a rationale for why more complex texts are needed in classrooms, and including highly criticized lists of texts (Moss, 2013) that are deemed appropriately complex using the CCSS guidelines (see Appendix A of CCSS).

In the April 2013 issue of this journal, the editors suggested, in light of changing circumstances such as the adoption of the CCSS, that English teacher educators ought to give careful consideration to "how we instruct our students to think about the texts they plan to teach" in their future classrooms (Rush & Scherff, 2013, p. 211). To better instruct the future English teachers with whom we work, English teacher educators need to understand how teachers make decisions about which texts to use in the classroom; by determining which factors play a role (and the degree to which each factor plays a role) in these decisions, we can better prepare students for the realities and challenges they will face in making these decisions.

There is no shortage of criteria and guidelines designed to help teachers make sound decisions about children's literature and instructional texts (Galda, Sipe, Liang, & Cullinan, 2013; Graves, Juel, Galda, & Dewitz, 2010; Rush, Ash, Saunders, Holschuh, & Ford, 2011), including help with "matching" texts to students in the elementary grades (McGill-Franzen, 2009). But a worthy question to consider is, given the constraints placed on teachers in current education settings, are these ideals being implemented in practice? Some insight into teacher practices in text selection can come from surveys of the texts that English language arts teachers assign in classrooms (Applebee, 1989; Squire & Applebee, 1968; Stallworth, 1997; Stallworth, Gibbons, & Fauber, 2006; Stotsky, 2010). These surveys have shown that not much has changed in nearly 100 years: most titles teachers choose are written by white males from the Anglo-Saxon tradition. While the most recent studies suggest that there is an evolving attitude toward "classic literature" evidenced by newer teachers embracing more varied titles (such as multicultural texts), the traditional canon still holds sway (Hale & Crowe, 2001). Research, however, has shown that motivation and engagement are key factors in helping students adopt literate behaviors (Alexander & Fox, 2011; Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000), causing some to question the assigning of canonical texts (which dominate the CCSS exemplar lists for secondary grades) that may not be as interesting or relevant to teenagers (Gallagher, 2009; Gallo, 2001; Monseau & Salvner, 2000). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.